Garcia positioned for first major title

Steve Stricker on Saturday at the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie.
John Biever/SI
Steve Stricker shot 64, a course record at Carnoustie. He birdied seven holes, including the first three, and made no bogeys.

The expected storms off the North Sea never turned up, and it was a wonderful day for golf, with only a slight breeze wafting across the course.

Plenty of players took advantage, led by Steve Stricker with a 7-under 64 that set a course record for an Open and was just one stroke off the tournament mark at any venue.

"It was just one of those rounds where everything kind of went right," said Stricker, who lost his tour card after a dismal 2005 season. "I made quite a few putts, something I haven't been doing as of late. Today, they all seemed to go in."

But Garcia maintained a relatively comfortable edge on his would-be challengers with a 9-under 204 total. Stricker is the closest pursuer at 207. No one else was within six strokes of the lead, a group at 210 that includes Chris DiMarco, last year's runner-up to Woods.

And what about Woods, trying to become the first player in more than a half-century to win three straight Open titles?

Posting a 69, he was among 17 players who cracked 70 but was still eight shots back at 212.

"I've got to play a little better than I have been, that's for sure," Woods said. "But at least I give myself a chance."

Like everyone else, he still remembers the last Open at Carnoustie.

"Paul came from 10 back in '99," Woods said. "Certainly you can do it around this golf course."

Garcia wasn't the only player who hit someone with his ball. Woods hit a shot that plunked a female fan in the head at the par-5 sixth, leaving her bloodied and bandaged.

"I had a pit in my stomach," Woods said. "There was blood all over the place. I don't know how she was smiling."

Jennifer Wilson, 63, needed stitches and a bandage to patch up the wound. Woods stopped by to apologize and gave her a signed glove and ball.

Then he made par at the hole.

That was about par for Woods' day. He made a big improvement on his 74 from Friday but there were plenty of guys who played better. His only real highlight was a 100-foot birdie putt at No. 4.

Even with the more inviting conditions, Carnoustie still showed some of its old bite.

K.J. Choi struggled to a 73 in the final group with Garcia, going from two shots off the lead to six. The South Korean finished with a bogey at No. 18, his punishment for driving into Barry Burn.

Els also wondered what might have been if not for a tee shot he launched out of bounds at the sixth, a par-5 hole that most one of the best birdie chances on the course. He took a triple-bogey, but rallied for a 68 that left him at 210.

"If I could have that one tee shot over," Els said. "I would be a lot closer."

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